“There is loads of time for that, Honey-bud,” said her sister-in-law, glancing up absently from the note she was writing.
“I was merely wondering whether it was necessary at all,” observed Ailsa Paige, without interest.
But Celia had begun to write again. “I’ll ask him,” she said in her softly preoccupied voice, “Saturday, I think.”
“Oh, but I’m invited to the Cortlandt’s,” began Ailsa, and caught her under lip in her teeth. Then she turned and walked noiselessly into her bedroom, and sat down on the bed and looked at the wall.
It was almost mid-April; and still the silvery-green tassels on the wistaria showed no hint of the blue petals folded within; but the maples’ leafless symmetry was already veined with fire. Faint perfume from Long Island woodlands, wandering puffs of wind from salt meadows freshened the city streets; St. Felix Street boasted a lilac bush in leaf; Oxford Street was gay with hyacinths and a winter-battered butterfly; and in Fort Greene Place the grassy door-yards were exquisite with crocus bloom. Peace, good-will, and spring on earth; but in men’s souls a silence as of winter.
To Northland folk the unclosing buds of April brought no awakening; lethargy fettered all, arresting vigour, sapping desire. An immense inertia chained progress in its tracks, while overhead the gray storm-wrack fled away,—misty, monstrous, gale-driven before the coming hurricane.
Still, for the Northland, there remained now little of the keener suspense since those first fiery outbursts in the South; but all through the winter the dull pain throbbed in silence as star after star dropped from the old galaxy and fell flashing into the new.
And it was a time of apathy, acquiescence, stupefied incredulity; a time of dull faith in destiny, duller resignation.
The printed news was read day after day by a people who understood nothing, neither the cautious arming nor the bold disarming, nor the silent fall of fortified places, nor the swift dismantling of tall ships—nor did they comprehend the ceaseless tremors of a land slowly crumbling under the subtle pressure—nor that at last the vast disintegration of the matrix would disclose the forming crystal of another nation cradled there, glittering, naming under the splendour of the Southern skies.
A palsied Old Year had gone out. The mindless old man—he who had been President—went with it. A New Year had come in, and on its infant heels shambled a tall, gaunt shape that seated itself by the White House windows and looked out into the murk of things with eyes that no man understood.
And now the soft sun of April spun a spell upon the Northland folk; for they had eyes but they saw not; ears had they, but they heard not; neither spoke they through the mouth.
To them only one figure seemed real, looming above the vast and motionless mirage where a continent stood watching the parapets of a sea-girt fort off Charleston.